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China's One Child Policy

For centuries China has stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world
in the arts and sciences. On the other hand, over the last decade it has plummeted
economically. A big factor for this massive downfall is the population of the country.
China is overpopulated, at the dawn of this century there were some 426 million
people living in China. Today the population is about 1.2 billion. About two-thirds of
this 900 million-person increase was added within the last 50 years. In essence, the
Mainland China alone contributes to at least twenty percent of the world's
contribution. (Ogilvy 2000:97) The Chinese government realized that something had
to be done or they would never be able to prosper as a country. Not at the rate they
were heading, that's for sure. They decided to set up a plan to reduce the population
growth. They called it China's one-child policy. This policy limits a Chinese couple to
bearing only one child. (Milwertz 1997:56) Initially, the Chinese government adopted
the policy in order to reduce the severe famine that plagued the country. They realized
later that it would also help them prosper economically since the overpopulation held
them back. The one child policy, although not formally written into law consisted of
three main points. Advocating delayed marriage and delayed child bearing,
advocating fewer and healthier births, and advocating one child per couple. (Wang
1995:34) Immediately after the policy was enforced, infanticide was introduced. How
could a couple murder their child just because it was a female? Gender played a huge
role in the Chinese culture. Males were definitely the dominant sex and a family
without a male child was looked down at.

The Chinese tradition implied that there must be a boy among the children in order to
continue the family. They felt that the males carried the name of their ancestors and
they needed to carry the name for the next generation. Therefore, whenever a couple
had a female child they reverted to infanticide. They would either abandon the child
or even worse, kill it. This way they had another chance at getting a boy. As
technologies advanced, they were able to determine the gender of the child before
birth and used abortion as a means to eliminate a female birth. These wide uses of
infanticide obviously arouse some issues. The sex ratio was totally unbalanced and
the infant mortality rate was horrible. Males were completely dominant in China.
They did most of the work and were the head of the household. The one concept that
the Chinese people are not considering is that in the future there will be far too many
males and far too less females. Sure, the one-child policy will reduce the population
growth rate, but it might lower to a point where reproduction occurs very rarely. It is
understandable though, because the family name is such a big concept to the Chinese
and for it to be carried on is very important. (Clubb 1978:15) They take their cultural
beliefs very seriously and will do anything to keep their ancestors happy. The fact of
carrying their family name on to the next generation cannot be the only reason to kill
off their female babies. Girls in China receive far less attention and resources than
boys and are deemed an insignificant role in society.

There are always those women that do not really care whether they have a boy or girl,
but it is their husbands who force them to abort the child. There have been several
cases where a wife has been brutally beaten by her husband just so she would abort
her child. (Wong 1995:3) The men take having a male child a lot more seriously than
the women. In some cases the husband forces the wife to go into hiding when she is
about to give birth. This way no one knows that she gave birth. Then if she has a girl,
she can simply abandon it without anyone knowing. A lot of women have decided to
apply for refugee status in other countries for fear that they will be forcibly aborted,
sterilized and discriminated against. (Ogilvy 2000:12) This always does not work
because a lot of these countries in the surrounding area of the country are not as
lenient in allowing Chinese refugees onto their land.

A lot of people found it easy to hide their children. Many people had more than one
child and did not let the government know. The biggest problem this led to was that
the children that were not registered did not receive any medical benefits. It was as if
they never did exist. They call this elite group of unregistered children the "black
population" and this makes the Chinese government statistics completely off. (Clubb
1978:18) These children are not allowed to go to school, and later will have difficulty
obtaining permission to marry, to relocate, and for other life choices requiring the
government's permission. (Milwertz 1997:21)

China's one-child policy has brought so many problem, that one needs to wonder if it
was actually a good idea in the first place. Sure, it lowered the population growth rate
tremendously, but the number of infant deaths took over. Women in China are forced
to give up their babies and are sometimes beaten. Males are still the dominant gender
and have the power of the family name behind them. Tradition will always live in
China, and a male child will always be a necessity. The family name must be carried
on and the only way to do this is through a male.

Works Cited

Milwertz, Cecilia Nathansen

1997 Accepting population control: urban Chinese women and the one-child
family policy. Richmond, Surrey [England] : Curzon Press

Ogilvy, James A

2000 China's futures : scenarios for the world's fastest growing economy,
ecology, and society. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass,

Clubb. O Edmund

1978 20th century China. New York : Columbia University Press

Wang Xin.

1995 . Population vs development. Challenge of the new century. Beijing Review.

Vol 38, p12-15

. "China's Population Policy" URL: "One Child Policy"

(13 January 1997)

Wong, Dr. Yin

1995 "A Question of Duty" Reader's Digest,.